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15 Aug, 2013

China asks: Who gave America the right to launch network assaults?

By Shen Dingli

Beijing, (People’s Daily Online), August 14, 2013 – Edward Snowden revealed the fact of large-scale telecom monitoring at home and abroad by the United States, confirming people’s previous assumptions. However, the world was still shocked by the depth and the breadth of the monitoring.

In response to the numerous questions put to the United States government on the subject, President Obama spoke recently. He put forward four measures on information reform in the United States, saying that he would adjust the law, strengthen the checks and balances on government power, increase the transparency of information monitoring, and establish a team of external experts to review the technology for information surveillance available to America.

The White House is trying to blur the distinction between the fight against terrorism and the protection of civil rights. Obama hopes to create the impression that he is at the same time meeting the needs of national security and the needs of public privacy, thus bringing to a conclusion the debate that was triggered by Snowden’s revelations more than a month ago. Whether the U.S. government can achieve its goal remains to be seen, although many of Obama’s previous promises have proved to be empty. In addition, in view of the particular nature of information work, it will not be easy for ordinary Americans to verify that a guarantee to improve the transparency of information on monitoring has in fact been met.

But no matter what measures President Obama chooses to adopt, two things will not change: no new information policy will cause the U.S. government to cease its continuing monitoring of its own people, nor will it stop its close monitoring of other countries or its infringement of their information sovereignty. While the United States government’s intention of rebuilding the first balance – the balance between national security and the interests of the people – is apparent, there is no evidence of any intent to address the second balance – that between its own interests and those of other countries.

The U.S. has no inherent right to peep into the sovereign territory of other countries that is represented by their private information. The United States is entitled to maintain its sovereignty of the network as far as its own self-defense is concerned, but it does not have the right to infringe the security of the network for inappropriate preemptive purposes.

On the one hand the United States demands that other countries refrain from carrying out network attacks by citing its rights to protect its national security and its intellectual property. On the other hand, it ignores the sovereign rights of other countries and attacks their networks in order to get access to information on their national security and their intellectual property rights. This is a serious violation of other countries’ lawful security and economic interests. The recent revelations have shown that U.S. actions strayed far beyond any of the requirements of its anti-terrorism strategy, and into the realm of industrial espionage to obtain access to the technology development strategy of other sovereign powers.

The U.S. surveillance program could not have remained hidden forever. Such blatant self-interest could not have been accepted even by the U.S. government’s own employees. The Snowden revelations were not an accident – other agents would have exposed this secret if he had not. The scale of the infringement of rights and interests of other countries that has been exposed to public scrutiny not only goes beyond what the government’s partners in the United States can tolerate, it exceeds what the country’s allies abroad find acceptable.

The U.S. cannot use national security as a pretext for its network attacks upon other countries, and maintain its position as self-appointed moral policeman to the rest of the world. More importantly, with the rapid development of globalization, the advanced science and technology that is currently the preserve of the United States is very quickly spreading, and network attacks will no longer be a weapon to which the U.S. has exclusive access. This could put the United States in an extremely fragile position.

Edited and translated by Zhang Qian, People’s Daily Online

Read the Chinese version: 谁给了美国网络攻击权